Skip to main content

When Adrian Dix toured a distillery in Kelowna in the first week of the election campaign, the cameras never stopped recording as the NDP Leader, usually a teetotaller, was offered a series of tasters – a heady mix of a liqueur, a martini and a whisky sour.

Christy Clark's early morning training run in Terrace wasn't on the B.C. Liberal Leader's tour schedule, but it became material for a behind-the-scenes newspaper story.

The spotlight is always on in the campaign.

Story continues below advertisement

But on Monday night, the intensity will be magnified as the leaders step up for a 90-minute television debate that could turn the election from a predictable march to victory for the NDP to a real contest.

The Liberals have pinned their hopes on the telegenic and confident former talk-show host scoring a knockout on the front-runner, the not-so-telegenic and less pithy Mr. Dix.

Mr. Dix went into Friday's debate with a commanding lead, but was weak in defending his new oil-tanker policy. He needs to do better on Monday to hold his ground – because these 90 minutes of scrutiny can undo the gains his party has made over the past two years.

Both Ms. Clark and Mr. Dix need to be mindful of the other leaders on the stage.

Ms. Clark has sought to neutralize the B.C. Conservatives' John Cummins by making a "debt-free B.C." her central theme.

Mr. Dix's party was bleeding support to the B.C. Greens because he wouldn't take a stand the proposed expansion of Kinder Morgan's oil pipeline. Last week, he sought to inoculate himself against attacks from the Greens' Jane Sterk by vowing to oppose the increased oil-tanker traffic out of the port of Vancouver that the pipeline project would require.

Unlike last Friday's radio debate, the Liberals hope the visual comparison between Ms. Clark and her main rival will favour her. Mr. Dix, who has Type 1 diabetes, has said that he can appear nervous when his condition causes tremors.

Story continues below advertisement

The candidates likely spent a good chunk of the weekend in excruciating mock-up debates, with stand-ins for their rivals taking the toughest shots they can think of. "It's a painful thing, to watch yourself being critiqued," said Ron Johnson, who has done debate prep with 10 NDP leaders, from Jack Layton to Mike Harcourt.

Mr. Johnson is now retired, but offers some armchair advice for Mr. Dix: "He wants to not be rattled, to be moderate, and to connect with potential NDP voters," he said. U.S. President Barack Obama's first debate against Mitt Romney last October offers a good primer for Mr. Dix on what not to do: The President got lost in a labyrinth of facts and figures, allowing his Republican opponent to walk away with a victory.

"You can't give a long scholarly answer," Mr. Johnson said. "You have got to connect with voters, you have to offer solutions to voters' problems, and you have to contrast why you are different from the other side."

For Ms. Clark, who needs to bring back disaffected Liberal supporters in significant numbers to close the gap, the pressure is on.

"The Liberals every day need to get blood out of the NDP," said pollster Greg Lyle, who was campaign manager for former B.C. Liberal leader Gordon Campbell. "The NDP, they just have to not lose."

Ms. Clark was out for blood on Friday in the radio debate, when she went after Mr. Dix for his stand on the Kinder Morgan pipeline, suggesting he landed on it for politics, not principles.

Story continues below advertisement

Ms. Clark isn't going to win over swing voters by defending the oil pipeline proposal. But she wants to paint Mr. Dix as an untrustworthy character.

Mr. Dix can, and did, return fire over Ms. Clark's record. Her campaign promises a debt-free B.C., yet her government has run up the provincial debt to record heights, and the NDP has raised questions about whether the Liberal budget is really balanced. On the doorstep, Liberal candidates are finding that a tough sell.

But Mr. Lyle predicts a nuanced argument about why NDP debt is better than Liberal debt won't offer Mr. Dix an easy point to nail in a fast-paced debate.

"She will say, 'We are talking about future and you don't have a plan to balance the budget,'" he said. "He should be attacking her on health, on poverty, that's where the NDP wins. If they are talking her issues, she is winning."

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter
To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies